Since it began in 2013, Poorcastle has faced its share of challenges, but few have been as daunting for the three-day, nonprofit music festival — that features all local acts — than choosing this year’s lineup. Through the years, learning curves, a venue change, logistical nightmares and waiting out a pandemic hasn’t been easy, but Poorcastle Festival cofounder and director of operations Shaina Wagner said the hardest part of scheduling the 2022 version was deciding which of the 279 area musical artists that applied to perform would fill the lineup’s 36 slots.
“It’s the best part and the worst part about organizing Poorcastle, hands down,” Wagner said.
“We just crack open some beers and order pizza and we sit there and listen to every submission, and we actually take the time to talk about each of these submissions because we know that these people took the time to submit, and this is their passion, so we’re going to put just as much effort into it by listening to each and every band,” she continued.
Despite the difficulties of making the cuts, when Poorcastle returns on May 20-22 at Breslin Park, the lineup will feature a predictably talented group of Louisville musicians that runs across several genres, including The N8VS, Routine Caffeine, Air Chrysalis, Shark Sandwich, Lacey Guthrie, Dom B, Belushi Speedball and many other local rock, folk, hip-hop and indie notables. For the second time, the fest will be held at Breslin Park, where it moved to in 2019 after outgrowing Apocalypse Brew Works, the venue where the first six installments took place. Being in the park has allowed Poorcastle to add several more vendors and experiences for festival-goers, like the comedy and live podcast tent, plus more booths as well as bar and food options. But, even though Poorcastle is enhancing all of those things that surround the music, what makes it a special event is that it’s the rare multi-day music festival that features all local acts from many different genres.
And, because of that, Wagner says people are really excited for its return.
“Even just talking about it to people in the community, they just are so happy that we’re back,” she said. “I mean, it kind of shows you how important that something like this is. We always knew that, but it took it being gone for two years for us to be be, ‘Oh, we’re actually doing something pretty important for our community and it’s good to know that people are happy that we’re back.”
Local hip-hop artist Romell Weaver, whose collective The N8VS headline Saturday night, said that Poorcastle gives local acts an invaluable increase in visibility.
“It’s one of the best for promoting visibility across all genres of the music scene — it is one of the best, absolutely,” Weaver said. “You get all of the top-tier talent from the rock bands to the experimental stuff to the bluegrass. It’s a beautiful festival.”
In The Beginning
It started as a joke.
A group of Crescent Hill Radio DJs were on air talking about how they could no longer afford to go to the increasingly expensive major music festivals. They talked about starting their own. Something affordable, that highlighted the under-the-radar bands around town. Someone made a play on words, cheekily calling the hypothetical fest Poorcastle, mimicking the local juggernaut, Forecastle, and the rest is history.
Every year, Poorcastle takes place the weekend before Forecastle. That first year, in 2013, it was one day and 11 bands. They billed it as “The festival for the rest of us.”
Almost every year since, it’s expanded a little at a time, adding more acts, days and vendors over the course of its lifespan.
The biggest change came in 2019, when Poorcastle moved from Apocalypse to Breslin Park. The year prior, the festival hit capacity on both Friday and Saturday night, and Wagner said the goal is to make sure fans never get turned away. So they looked for a bigger space, settling on Breslin.
While they got what they wanted, the move also came with a series of serious challenges. Wagner said the work tripled, because Breslin didn’t have the built-in features that Apocalypse had, such as fencing, bathrooms, a liquor license and insurance.
“We learned a lot, making that move from Apocalypse to Breslin,” Wagner said. “And, honestly, the two years we took off due to COVID was almost like a relief, in a way, just because it was such a big change going to Breslin Park after doing it so many years at Apocalypse — it was, at that point, a well-oiled machine. There were just so many new hurdles that we didn’t expect.”
What To Expect
Every day at Poorcastle 2022, the gates of the festival open at 1 p.m. and the last band goes on at 10:15 p.m. There’s one stage, so no overlapping sets, and the lineups are sonically diverse, making it a great event for discovery.
Weaver, who heads the N8VS, said that fans can expect a high-energy hip-hop show from the group, which he compares to the Wu-Tang Clan, where the members have very different styles but they mesh well.
“Expect fun, expect good vibes, expect some dope hip-hop, some great lyrics, nice concepts, some wild beats, some more bars, and just a tad bit more bars after that too,” Weaver said.
Belushi Speed Ball, who are known for their themed eccentric thrash shows that involve anything from spraying silly string and throwing garbage at the crowd to only playing a concert to cats, are performing at the festival at 8 p.m. on Saturday, but lead singer Vinny Castellano won’t give any hints as to what’s going to happen when they take the stage.
“We have something really huge planned that we’ve been trying to pull off for a long time, so this will be the perfect time,” he said. “It’s not going to destroy the park or anything. It’s not messy to that degree.”
We might have to wait to see what Belushi has in store for that Saturday, but Castellano had high praise for the festival and the other acts that will be there.
“It’s so important to keep into perspective that right here in Louisville we have this amazing plethora of artists and talent,” he said.
Friday, May 20
1 p.m.: Festival gates open
2: Young Romantics
2:45: Ben Traughber
5: Honey Cutt
5:45: The Uncommon Houseflies
6:30: The Excuses
8: Shark Sandwich
9:30: Tall Squares
10:15: Routine Caffeine
Saturday, May 21
1 p.m.: School of Rock
2:45: Salem Ave
3:30: The Golden Whip
4:15: Sister Crone
5: Mr. Please
6:30: Mommy’s Cigarettes
8: Belushi Speed Ball
8:45: Tez of 2Deep
9:30: Anemic Royalty
10:15: The N8Vs
Sunday, May 22
1 p.m.: Gates open
2: The Highlanders
2:45: Yellow Cellophane
3:30: Elk Hound
4:15: Baby Bones
5: Shutaro Noguchi
7:15: Dom B
8:45: Lacey Guthrie
10:15: Air Chrysalis
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